By Kristina Smith
Soaking in the warmth of the steamy outdoor whirlpool, I gazed at the picturesque mountain view and pondered my next move. Should I linger in the thermotherapy circuit or make my way to the restaurant for what promised to be another delectable meal?
The choice was a tough one, and I relished having such a luxurious dilemma.
Jump Right In (The Water)
Tucked away in the heart of Quebec, Canada’s Eastern Townships, Spa Eastman is a hidden gem that combines the healing power of nature with delicious, nourishing cuisine for a true immersion into the joy of simply living.
As you ascend the elevation on the drive in, the secluded nature of this stunning retreat becomes apparent, a peaceful 330-acre escape from the hustle of daily life. Entering the main pavilion, I actually felt my shoulders drop and was more than ready to dive in.
I started my journey with an introduction to the hydrotherapy circuit with a small group (Thermotherapy 101), which included a tour and explanation of the various hot and cold pools and saunas as well as the beautiful, serene relaxation rooms.
Not yet feeling brave, I finished up with the polar plunge in the outdoor lake anyway, which surprised me by feeling fantastic. Definitely a great way to kick off a stay here in the colder seasons.
We were each provided with one robe and towel kit per day, which can be kept in your locker and swapped daily as needed.
Vous ne parlez pas français? Not to worry—like my introduction to the circuit, many of the activities at Spa Eastman are offered in both French and English, and the staff is bilingual as well.
I would come to repeat this healing circuit several times during my stay; there was never any rushed feeling, and lots of space to spread out, never crowded or loud.
Sleep Cocooned In A Healthy, Natural Setting
After my introduction to the circuit, I headed to my oasis in the forest. The eco-pavilion housing my room is actually called Oasis, and the name could not be more apt.
The first of more to come, this newly completed, carbon-neutral “inn in the forest” is based on the best principles of sustainable development, and it is one more concept from visionary Spa Eastman co-founder Jocelyna Dubuc come to life.
Dubuc opened Spa Eastman in 1977, the year I was born—a true pioneer of destination spas and health tourism in the 70s—and has always believed in the healing power of nature.
She had a vision for these restorative sanctuaries decades ago, but the technology and materials for building in a healthy, sustainable way were simply not available. Luckily, a few years ago, she serendipitously connected with experts in the field, and her vision of creating a healthy village began to come to life.
The interior has a decidedly Scandinavian/minimalist vibe with a gorgeous communal space to relax, complete with green plants climbing the walls. In addition to this beautiful glass room, the entirely non-toxic pavilion houses a kitchen, infrared sauna, 4-season solarium, and a roof terrace.
Oasis was so quiet, so soundproof, I actually had no idea any other guests were staying there until I ran into them in the entrance foyer!
The pavilion is entirely surrounded by trees; I drove there initially with my bags but afterwards was able to tromp ten minutes or so through the woods to return to the main pavilion.
Dubuc feels strongly that sharing these learnings is key, and Oasis is being used as a teaching school for other sustainable building projects. What a legacy.
Enjoy A Flavourful Approach To Health
On my first evening at dinner in the restaurant, I spotted Dubuc chatting and laughing with guests.
Her passion is infectious.
It was her vision that Spa Eastman offer not just a healthy menu, but a restorative one as well. In her early 20s, Dubuc discovered the healing properties of food for her own health, and over the years, surrounded herself with experts and enthusiasts to achieve another of her goals: creating a cuisine that’s just as tasty as it is nutritious.
Spa Eastman’s Tonique Cuisine® has earned global acclaim, securing the coveted top spot in the 2022 Global Culinary Travel Awards by the World Food Travel Association for its exceptional emphasis on wellness and health in culinary travel.
Being closed during the height of the pandemic gave Spa Eastman pause to even further define its food offerings and direction, exploring low-temperature cooking and incorporating more good fats.
For me, the experience was about committing more deeply to healthy eating and fresh ingredients. Every breakfast starts with berries, fermented yogurt, and a muffin to enjoy alongside your tea or coffee. I highly recommend the vegetable-based “hollandaise” sauce with poached eggs on Celestial bread.
Lunch brings hearty soups and fermented salads topped with microgreens (grown on-site) and main options like noodles, while dinner is a four-course affair with fish, meat, and vegetarian entrees that are packed with wholesome ingredients and bursting with flavour. All gluten and dairy free, and very filling, the menu changes seasonally with special Chef’s recommendations daily.
I loved this approach to dining without a side of dogma: enjoy the food, and perhaps bring home aspects that appeal to you. All dishes are beautifully presented, which naturally leads to slower, more mindful eating. The servers were friendly and knowledgeable, and if they didn’t know an answer to one of my questions, they asked for me.
Spa Eastman’s commitment to healthy living extends to its wine selection, which is predominantly organic and made from grapes grown without chemicals or pesticides. I enjoyed them and committed to choosing responsibly produced wines at home.
Embrace The Gentle Giants Of The Forest
I watched the sunrise from my room each morning and happened to catch one from the upper relaxation room in the circuit area as well. Breathtaking. Seeking an even deeper connection, I joined a forest therapy/meditative walk with knowledgeable guide Anne-Marie.
As Dubuc recognized decades ago, we cannot have true health of body without the health of our natural surroundings. While some have recently made this connection, Spa Eastman was ahead of the curve, offering guests an opportunity for quiet reflection, connection, and appreciation of nature and the trees themselves.
We wandered slowly through the forest, taking in the sights, smells, and sounds around us. As the walk ended, we each took some time to embrace a tree. A few people seemed a bit shy at first, but after a couple of minutes had smiles on their faces, even some tears.
I don’t normally nap in the afternoons but certainly did here, most likely due to the detoxing of the thermotherapy circuit. To wake up, a walk in the woods was called for – the 15 kilometres of trails are well-marked – and in snow and heavy boots, this certainly fired up an appetite for dinner!
I also enjoyed spending time around in the lounge in the main pavilion, with its comfy seating, peaceful music, and fireplace. A wonderful place to read and relax.
While some guests opt for day visits, many choose to stay and make the most of this tranquil paradise. I would highly recommend a minimum 3-night stay so you have time to decompress from travel time, unpack, and take things slowly.
What sets Spa Eastman apart from other spa destinations is the commitment I felt to offering a unique experience to each and every guest. They offer a full menu of spa treatments and therapies, as well as a modern gym, yoga classes, and so much more.
Spa Eastman is a destination of tranquillity and relaxation that will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world. Pack your bags, leave your worries behind, and book a stay at this one-of-a-kind wellness getaway.
Visit spa-eastman.com to explore packages and retreats.